Changing My Mind: Shoes Are Not Necessarily Easier to Fit

I’m starting a new series on my blog today: Changing My Mind.

I often change my mind about stuff based on comments and comment threads in this blog. It’s one of the main reasons I blog, actually. One of my blog’s mottos is “Thinking out loud since 2005,” and one of the best reasons to think out loud is that, when you think out loud instead of just inside your own head, people who know things you don’t can correct you if you’re mistaken. So I’ve decided that, when this happens, I’m going to start saying so in the blog. I think it’s good practice for the discipline of skepticism. Being willing to admit that we’re wrong is how we become more right. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit in public that we’re wrong. On the contrary — we should be proud of it.

So, okay, the topic on which I’m changing my mind today is perhaps not the most earth-shattering one on the planet. But it’s what I was thinking about when I decided to start this series, so I’m just going to go with it:

It is not necessarily easier to find shoes that fit than it is to find clothes that fit.

In my recent post, Fashion Friday: Why Shoes?, I meditated on why so many women who care about fashion and style are so fascinated by shoes. And one of the ideas I threw out there was this:

It’s relatively easy to find shoes that fit. Yes, there are some women with very small or very large feet who have a hard time finding shoes. But it pales in comparison with the number of women who have a hard time finding clothes that fit. If you’re interested in fashion and style and want to express yourself through your appearance, and you’re fatter than average, or thinner than average, or taller, or shorter, or bustier, or more flat-chested… finding clothes that fit can be a hassle at best, a frustrating nightmare that can drive you to tears at worst. But chances are excellent that you’ll be able to find shoes that fit. So just about everyone can get into them, and have fun with them. (This is especially true for fat women: cool shoes are many a stylish fat woman’s best friend.)

As far as I knew, this was true. I’ve never had great trouble finding shoes that fit, and I haven’t personally known a lot of other women who have. And I’ve known lots and lots and lots of women — including myself — who have had a terrible time finding clothes that fit. But many women responded to this post with tales of how difficult it is for them to find shoes that fit. Apparently, that’s more common than I knew.

So I’m amending this. I don’t know whether it’s easier to find shoes that fit than it is to find clothes that fit. It may be; it may not be. I don’t know which is a more common problem. So here’s what I now am saying instead. Instead of saying, “It’s easier to find shoes that fit than to find clothes that fit,” I’m going to say, “It’s easier for many women to find shoes that fit than to find clothes that fit. Lots of women have a difficult, frustrating time finding clothes that fit — especially women with body shapes and sizes that fall outside the social expectations of what women are supposed to look like. But for many of these women, shoe shopping is relatively easy — and for those women, if they’re interested in fashion and style and want to express themselves through their appearance, shoes can be a good way to do that.”

Am looking forward to changing my mind again!

Changing My Mind: Shoes Are Not Necessarily Easier to Fit

29 thoughts on “Changing My Mind: Shoes Are Not Necessarily Easier to Fit

  1. 1

    Greta, I enjoy your fashion posts, even though I am a tshirt and jeans kinda gal. I have size 12 feet (Women’s US) and cannot find shoes that fit. I buy men’s shoes because they are all that fit my wide, long feet. This is a pain in the ass when I am expected to dress up for a event though. I own one pair of heels, that usually only gets broken out for Halloween. So what is a person who cannot find clothes or shoes supposed to do?

  2. 2

    It’s funny; because of my own problems finding well-fitting, comfortable shoes I’ve always assumed that most women just deal with a lot of foot pain for the sake of fashion.

    (I still think this is true to a certain extent–even my Dansko heels are painful after awhile, though given that my problem is that I have no arches, heels with arch support are actually more comfortable for me that ballet flats, which I simply cannot wear.)

  3. 3

    Yes, but what about the menz? πŸ™‚

    10.5-11 4E here. A half-size larger if I need to add an orthotic. Not impossible, mind you. But a little tougher if I want to buy a nice leather shoe versus a pair of running shoes. Forget about the really nice stuff, unless I want to spring for a custom job. Even running shoes tend to run me well over $100, just because of the limited choices in nonstandard widths.

    I suppose it must be worse for women (and other fans of women’s shoes), what with your shoes being inherently designed to hurt your feet even when they fit correctly. Seriously… can someone explain to me why those things qualify as shoes at all? I’m told that other men find high heels sexy, but when I see them all I do is sort of cringe in sympathy.

  4. CC

    I’m both blessed and cursed with tininess. It is equally difficult/easy to find clothes and shoes. It all depends on being able to find sizes small enough. My foot is just about a perfect size 6, but finding shoes in that size in stores can be a challenge. When the store does have a 6, it’s on display which means that women have been coming by and stuffing their feet into it for days and it’s all stretched out. Forget shopping in discount stores for either clothes or shoes. I pretty much order everything online these days.

  5. 5

    I have to agree with you. As a very short female, clothing of the correct length is near impossible to find. Tailors are my friend.

    But shoes..I love them, but manufacturers don’t love me. I wear a size 5. I know a few women who wear size 4.

    I dare all of you, the next time you are out shoe shopping, ask the store what size they carry down to. Most of them will answer 6.

  6. 6

    My feet are size ten, so in theory, I can find cute shoes that fit. In practice, I have to append a “W” to that size ten, which immediately makes it impossible to find comfortable shoes that I’m willing to wear as fashion. Woe is me. I could also go up to a size eleven, but that has more or less the same effect. Do you remember those boots I asked you about at Skepticon last year? Not available in my size, dammit.

  7. 7

    I truly love that you publicly, proudly change your mind. Love it. Also, I adore your fashion posts. I’ve never had trouble finding shoes that fit personally, but the two most gorgeous, stunning, stylish women I know find it a nightmare, being in the 10-11 wide neighbourhood.

    Improbable Joe: Depending on the heel/your feet/the rest of you/the rest of the shoe, they can range from “WTFNO! H8! Not wearing this!” to “Actually pretty comfy.” to, “Medically required to walk” (Okay, that latter one is a friend of mine who was advised by her doc to wear heels while healing her ripped achilles tendons.) My girlfriend finds a heel of some sort to be very good for her freakishly high arches. I’ve got a pair of stilettos from Doc Martens that are almost as comfy as my perfectly-worn-in 8-hole Docs, because they’re well-made and offer actual support and cushioning. Most of them, however, are some form of uncomfy. But they do do lovely things to the rest of one’s appearance.

  8. 8

    @ happiestsadist as of right now you are my hero. Somehow I did not know that Doc Martins made stilettos. They even come in my size. And they are now on my Xmas list as they are crazy expensive.

    I want these. So cute!

  9. 10

    I never understood this female fascination with shoes, or any kind of fashion, really. I figure it’s a fetish and leave it at that. Not that I have anything against fetishes, but shoes just doesn’t float my boat. For me, stilettos are as big a turn-off as smoking hand-rolled cigarettes.

    I cannot imagine that I at any point in my life have owned as much as a dozen shoes. Last year I got so fed up with all the trendy crap I started wearing FiveFingers. No support, no cushioning, no shock absorption, no heel. I have several pairs now, and I still have less than a dozen shoes total.

    FiveFingers look like crap. People actually laugh at my footwear. Words like Bigfoot and Kermit make their ways into the conversation. I have mentally scarred children with my shoes. If I had a girlfriend, she would have left me because of my terrible taste in shoes. But the comfort! They are so immensely comfortable I feel they should be sold in sex shops. And ironically, they are quite difficult to fit.

  10. 12

    OK, try being a size 10-1/2 wide. Many shoes don’t come in sizes past 10. Many come in half-sizes _up to_ 10, then go in whole-size increments above that. Many makers don’t make wides. And add to that that many stores, including Macy’s, don’t carry shoes past a size 10. I had a saleswoman at Macy’s actually laugh at me, yes, laugh, at a customer, for asking for something in a size 11. I was so furious I couldn’t speak. And I like shoes. I even like girly shoes. But the girly shoes that come in my size tend to look like they were made for drag queens, which doesn’t tend to go with my fashion choices.

    I really hate shopping for shoes. If there’s something specific I’m trying to find, it can take weeks or months, and easily 20 or more stores, before I either find it or just give up. All you size 7-9 normal-width-feet gals out there, you really and truly don’t know how lucky you are.

    Luckily, for work I can wear mens’ shoes. That’s one saving grace. Running shoes are easy to find in my size, and I may, someday, find a pair of steel-toed boots that are wide enough.

    Harrumph, grumble, grumble…
    I guess this touched a nerve.

  11. 13

    Lessa, if you’re in the U.S., you can try ordering shoes from Nordstom (assuming there isn’t one in your area). They’re known for being good when you’re hard to fit.

    Another option, if you’re in a good-sized city, is to ask your local drag queens where they shop. You might get something jazzier than you wanted, but fitting you shouldn’t be a big deal.

  12. 14

    I’ve been thinking about commenting on that Friday Fashion post, but I’m genuinely surprised and appreciative that you’ve publicly changed your mind. πŸ™‚

    Add me to the chorus of women who can’t find well-fitting shoes. At least, not for anywhere under $50. My feet are wide, short, and high-arched, so to say I hate shoe shopping is an understatement. I wish I could like shoes; I like looking at them as a detached admirer of the artistry shoe designers can achieve. But as soon as putting it on my foot enters into the picture, I am filled with rage and crushing disappointment.

    I really shouldn’t blame myself for having such difficult-to-fit feet, and I’ve come to accept that I can’t hold the shoe makers accountable either–it’s not like they are deliberately (and maliciously) not making shoes to fit my feet. I do sometimes entertain the notion of making my own shoes, as I do with some of my other garments. πŸ˜‰ If/when I start having more disposable income to play around with, I might end up liking shoes as I become able to afford the higher priced ones that come in more than “average” sizes.

  13. 15

    I take it for granted that I have to pay at least $50 for a pair of shoes which fit me … and that’s everyday shoes, not special occasion shoes. The one thing that has made shoe shopping easier is that, as an adult, my feet aren’t changing size anymore, so I can often just buy the same model / same size as my previous pair of everyday shoes if it’s still sold in stores (though I have to fit it again to make sure they didn’t change the model), which makes shoe shopping much simpler.

    My dad, even though he’s a man, also has trouble finding good fitting shoes. However, it is easier for him because a) he has bigger feet, and the bigger the size, the easier to find it in wide form as well and b) he’s a man. I myself often go to the “men’s” section to get my shoes, and I’ve met more than a few women shopping there too. I have never heard of a man going to the “women’s” section because it was hard to find a shoe that fit in the “men’s” section (though I am willing to believe that it happens). I think one reason why so many women have trouble finding comfortable shoes is that there is a lingering social expectation that shoes should be a little painful for women (Cinderella anyone?), whereas that expectation does not exist for men.

    I would like to note that the one pair of heels that I ever bought, and were actually the most comfortable dressy shoes I ever had, were gender-neutral – they were marketed for men and women. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the very same set of heels which are actually quite comfortable, and not even particularly expensive (I paid about 50 USD), are also heels intended for male consumption.

  14. 16

    One thing that occurs to me, is that I don’t feel like a terribly unattractive person if I can’t find shoes in my size. If I don’t fit into a pair of jeans, I start wondering if I am fat, out of shape, etc and if I don’t fit into a pair of shoes, well… too bad. I can’t change my shoe size, and it is not a hallmark of beauty in our society. There is not a lot of stress there.

    So, shopping for shoes feels way more fun to me. Except for boots. Having large calves sucks.

  15. 17

    As a big man (6′ 6″ before age and gravity took over an inch off) I need a 13 wide shoe and they can sometimes be hard to find in styles I like. I like shoes with velcro and zip up wellingtons or slip on dress shoes as I think laces are a frustrating waste of time in an age of velcro, zippers and slip ons.

    Another complaint I’ve had is having to order robes from catalogs. Trust me, the one size fits all doesn’t work for anyone my height and weight. It has to be 2x or 3x and longer than average, or forget it. Penneys and WalMart do pretty well in stocking those sizes in shirts. The big and tall stores are just outside my retiree limited budget.

    Your willingness to think and grow, freely admitting that you don’t already know it all is a refreshing change from some of the dogmatism that is so pervasive in this world. That’s one of the reasons I follow your blog.

  16. 18

    By no stretch of the imagination am I a fashionable person, but I find the fashion posts and comments to be fascinating reading – I hope they continue! Shoes are rarely comfortable for me, and if it was convenient and safe to go barefoot all the time, I would certainly do so. I sort of envy my ancestors back in the ethnic German communities of Russia, who, judging from many of the old photos we have, typically worked their fields and threshing machines while barefoot. The only thing that seems to reduce my foot pain is practicing Iyengar yoga, which of course is done barefoot, even when the weather is cold. My feet are 11B, with flat arches, and I have to spend a lot of time standing on them (4-6 hours at a stretch, four days a week in the fall) while teaching lab classes. I had foot problems as a child, and wore corrective shoes much of the time; one foot still tends to turn in (pigeon-toed) when I’m tired.

    Shoes pose a particular problem with regards to social consciousness, because even if they are “made in the USA” or “made in the EU”, various parts of them could have been assembled or produced elsewhere, under conditions that are suspect, and involve child or sweatshop labor. Production of shoes often involves the use of toxic adhesives, dyes, and plastics. There are fair trade/organic/recycled shoes available, but few are suitable for most workplaces in the US. Of course such problems apply to clothing as well, and I realize that these are quandaries of affluence, but it would be nice to have a conversation about social justice and fair trade in the context of apparel choices, without people rolling their eyeballs dismissively.

  17. 19

    I hate, hate, hate having to buy shoes.
    They don’t fit, they wear out quickly.
    My feet aren’t that large, but very broad. It’s hell when fashion decides that very slim, pointed shoes are what to wear, so occasionally I have to buy men’s shoes, and I’m not happy about it.
    I have difficulties finding clothes, too, but at least I can alter them myself

  18. 20

    I have difficulties finding clothes, too, but at least I can alter them myself

    That’s a very good point! There’s no such thing as an alterations cobbler, as far as I know…

  19. Jen

    Reading the comments so far, I am finding several of the issues that I also deal with when shoe shopping. I’m a 5 1/2 – 6, with a wide foot at the toes (from toe-walking as a toddler), and very large calves. (Sounds sexy, doesn’t it?)
    My personal style runs towards the t-shirt and jeans end of the fashion spectrum; I mostly wear tennis shoes, which I tend to buy in the little boys section because of price and the room for my wide foot. It is almost impossible for me to find a heel I can even get my foot into, let alone wear comfortably.
    And as much as I love boots, anything above a high ankle and I look like I have stumps for legs…
    I wonder how much of my preferred choice of footwear is determined by my inability to wear some of the more exotic varieties?

  20. 22

    Neat. I’ve had trouble finding dress shoes since I was 8 because my little toes curl under and my big toe curves up. My arches eliminate a little over half of the rest of the shoes, but my shoe size isn’t hard to find, so I didn’t used to have trouble finding shoes. Until, that is, I began having trouble balancing. I won’t get shoes that make me feel much less steady than I am barefoot. Even most athletic shoes are hard for me to balance in. Now, provided I can’t find the same model as I’ve gotten before, I’m lucky to find a shoe in the first three stores I try. Shoes aren’t expensive for me, but they are hard to find. Worse, I can’t tell at first glance, so I’m stuck trying on every shoe that could possibly work. Very much a hassle.

  21. 23

    I find it very easy to find shoes that go onto my feet and don’t fall off again pronto; I also find it very easy to find clothes that go onto my body and don’t fall off again (I am aware that neither of these things is true for everyone).

    The difference is that with clothes “I can get into it and it isn’t falling off” (if necessary with the addition of a belt or similar) is sufficient (although not ideal) for me to be able to wear an item. But with shoes being even slightly the wrong shape for my feet is going to cause serious pain if I wear them for any length of time to do anything that involves standing or walking (they are fine for sitting down looking decorative). So I have much more exacting requirements for fit-of-shoe than I do for fit-of-clothes.

    I assume that either a)for many women slightly ill-fitting shoes do not cause enormous pain or b)many women have feet of such a shape that the majority of shoes are a perfect fit for them. Otherwise I can’t see how finding a shoe that fits could ever be easy.

    (I love shoes, I have loads and loads of them – but most of them I can only wear to the sort of party where I spend most of the time sitting down)

  22. 24

    Being (and having always been) a skinny person, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around there being a value judgement to the number sewn into your jeans. I guess my attitude was always “so…cut the size tag off when you get home then? and buy what fits” But I guess it equates to the way I feel when I find myself sized out of certain stores I used to have luck in, and wandering department store juniors sections at thirty. Except I’ve never figured out how to internalize that “you’re not the right size” thing. I just wind up going “WTF fashion industry?!? Why can’t there be clothes that actually fit people?”

    I guess some of that also comes from working retail. I spend my days helping women find clothing that flatters their body. And sometimes they purchase pants in three different sizes, because different cuts just fit so differently. But I promise, no matter what size you are, it’s not you, it’s the pants (top, dress, whatever). Something, somewhere, will be cut to fit you well, or at least just need the hem taken up.

    Greta, I’m surprised you haven’t written about most women’s ignorance/fear of the tailor. a minor alteration can be the difference between slouchy and stunning (seriously: a 1/2 inch tuck on the strap of a dress, the correct hem on a pant, an extra stitch to a dart- transformative)

  23. 25

    It’s not the length for me, it’s the width. I need to buy special shoes on the internet because it looks like I have wide feet. I know women who do the same thing because they have narrow feet. Sometimes I find the cutest pair that I just force my feet into…usually leads to bleeding and blisters. Luckily, I live in Los Angeles and many people jus let me be barefoot indoors, and I wear flip flops outdoors. But I’m moving to Seattle in July…and the shoe thing, I need to shell out some big bucks to find stuff that fit, let alone is cute.

  24. 26

    I was thinking about alterations as I read the OP. You can’t alter shoes, but you can kind of cheat. An insert can firm up a shoe that’s a little loose to keep it from rubbing. And for some reason (weight loss?), some of my shoes are too big lately, so I stuff some toilet paper in the toe so the heel stays put.

  25. T

    I didn’t comment earlier, but I’m one of those people who have a much easier time clothes shopping. My sizes are pretty average- about a US 8 in both shoes and dresses, my feet don’t have any issues that should complicate fitting at all, whereas clothes should be pretty difficult for me (I’m busty, and my calves don’t fit in skinny jeans).

    But, if I buy a shirt that’s a little too big, well, it’ll just fit loosely. If it’s cheaply made, it just won’t last very long. A sewing machine fixes minor fit issues. Now, if I were to buy a pair of shoes that are a little too big or made cheaply, I’ll have blisters all over my feet and I can’t walk (serious problem!). And then boots don’t fit the aforementioned muscular calves, high heels can cause some pretty scary problems, ballet flats don’t stay on and are the worst for blisters, flip flops badly affect your gait… Shoe shopping is a nightmare for me! I try to rock the “everything with sneakers” look because that’s the only kind of easy shoe for me to buy.

  26. 28

    I am frankly and straightforwardly very bitter on the entire subject of shoes, because I’m a straight ciswoman who has literally never worn a pair of pretty shoes in her adult life. When I was ten I tried to put on a pair of high-heeled pumps in the Goodwill store and my feet were too wide to fit into them. At ten, trying on adult-sized shoes.

    Oh, I can find shoes I can wear, sure. They have to lace all the way down the front, though. And in the wide sizes I still have to go two sizes larger than what I nominally “should” wear. So I’m stuck in what are commonly referred to as “old-lady shoes” — which, except for Birkenstocks, are the only shoes I have worn since I was sixteen.

    So I’m bitter, and hate the “Oh All Women Just Love Shopping For Shoes” trope, because ever since I can remember buying shoes has been an actively unpleasant and often deeply embarrassing experience for me.

  27. 29

    Right here is the right site for anybody who would like to find out about this topic. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic that has been written about for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!

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